The New York Legal Assistance Group, through a fund created by the New York State Attorney General’s Office, has sent payments to 1,521 people who were eligible to receive restitution as former clients of two organizations operating in New York City that allegedly defrauded immigrants and engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Most immigrants received the maximum $1,502 from the $2.2 million restitution fund.

The fund was created as part of a 2013 settlement agreement between New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Edward Juarez, the president of the International Immigrants Foundation (IIF) and International Professional Association (IPA). As a result of the settlement, IIF and IPA were both closed. The settlement required that the tangible assets of IIF/IPA be sold, the outstanding obligations paid, and the remaining funds be used to provide restitution to former clients. NYLAG administered the claims process and conducted extensive outreach to inform the public and notify eligible former clients.

“We are grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman for appointing NYLAG as the Claims Administrator. It is gratifying to have played a role in ensuring that immigrants who were defrauded receive a measure of compensation and public recognition for the harm they have suffered,” said Beth Goldman, NYLAG’s President and Attorney-in-Charge. “We have taken an important step toward justice, and sent a clear message that New York State is serious about fighting immigration fraud.”

In 2010, the Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against IIF and IPA alleging that they misrepresented their ability and qualifications to provide immigration-related legal services, defrauded immigrants with false promises of citizenship and residency, engaged in the unauthorized practice of law, illegally charged excessive fees for services, and violated laws governing not-for-profit corporations. These organizations generated millions of dollars in revenue each year.